Look to the skies — Pictureplane's other car is a broom
Which witch house is which? For an answer to this head-spinning question, it helps to go to the source, Travis Egedy of Pictureplane (coming to town Sat/8), who half-jokingly helped coin the phrase when a website asked him to predict what 2010 would bring in terms of music. Turns out Egedy was more correct than even he expected, as blogs, music journalists, and Last.fm grabbed hold of the idea of witch house and made it into a quasi-genre, to the degree that other acts, such as Salem, are more synonymous with the term. With a backlash in effect, this might be for the better, since Egedy's music to date is more vibrant and wide-ranging than a two-word catchphrase.
"No one really knows what witch house is, but there are people consciously trying to make witch house now," Egedy says, watching his clothes spin in the dryer at a Laundromat before going on tour with "stylistic" peers Teengirl Fantasy. "It's not even like people are copying each other, but that it's this weird emergent phenomena, popping up all over the place amongst people who aren't even connected. [The year] 2010 was a dark one for music aesthetically, which I think is awesome."
While Egedy can identify trends ("Put a bunch of upside-down crosses next to your band name, use some spooky images, add some occult symbols, and boom! — you're witch house."), he's been looking beyond and beneath them since the gothic loner-at-a-rave anthems of his 2008 album on Lovepump United, Dark Rift, gave his recordings in Denver a national and international presence. The next Pictureplane album is less concerned with the supernatural than the physical. "All of the songs I just finished are dealing with fetishism and human touch, sharing information through touching each other," says Egedy, mentioning Philip K. Dick. "I was reading a lot of books about fetish and technology and that directly informed my lyrics."
An interest in the tactile doesn't mean that Egedy is disinterested in weird, emergent phenomena. Like the movie maker Damon Packard, he's noted a marked increase in UFO stories within the media this past year, placing the subject third within a 2010 top 10 list on his blog (www.plainpictures.blogspot.com ). "There were tons of stories — the Chinese airport, the Norway spiral, weird missiles, a floating pyramid over Moscow, Russia — about weird things going on in the sky," he says. "I've always been interested in aliens. It's almost funny to me that people are so dismissive and skeptical."
Though it might not qualify as an alien encounter, Egedy recently brushed up against Ke$ha two nights in a row recently in L.A. "She's very aloof. My friend Natalie introduced me, and she barely made eye contact," he says. "The next night I was DJing at a party and she showed up. I said, 'Hey, I met you last night,' and she looked at me like I was crazy. I don't think she had any memory of meeting me. She had this massive bottle of whiskey, and she let me take a sip of it."
The Ke$sha affair and other daily exploits have made it to Egedy's Twitter feed, which is lively. It's no surprise that he admires a pair of Bay Area musical presences — Lil B and Alexis Penney — who use the social networking site as a form of performance. "There's really nothing else like Twitter because it's so immediate and it can serve as a window into people's worlds," Egedy says. "That's how Lil B approaches it, and Alexis, too. There's an ego with Twitter that's kind of intrinsically funny. You have to think people care what the hell you're talking about."
What Pictureplane is on about isn't completely clear at the moment, in this transitional time between albums and the commentary they generate. At a concert in San Francisco last year, Egedy's newer songs had more pop immediacy, though he pegs the recordings as "more gothic and industrial-sounding" than Dark Rift. But at this point, Egedy's a lightning rod, with everything from his attire to his DJ mixes generating endless online arguments. If he realizes this, it isn't fazing him. "The people who are trend-following, I don't know why they'd even make a style of music just because other people are doing it," he says, closing the door on the discussion of witch house. "I'd much rather be ahead of a trend than jumping in after the fact."
With Teengirl Fantasy, Tormenta Tropical, and Donuts DJs
647 Valencia, SF